The FCC set a May 10 date to auction 800 MHz air-to-ground licenses--a hot prospect since airline passengers represent a huge untapped revenue potential for the wireless industry. More than 1 billion passengers traveled on aircraft in 2005 worldwide. Verizon Airfone quickly announced it would be ready to offer in-flight Internet access by 2007 if it wins a license. Verizon already has a temporary license. The company has been demonstrating a CDMA system to commercial airlines by conducting flight tests that have achieved ground-to-air data speeds of 2.4 Mbps.
Boulder, CO-based Aircell has also demonstrated in-flight broadband supporting CDMA, GSM, WiFi and wVoIP devices. Aircell qualifies to receive a 25 percent small-business bidding credit. We'll also see interest from Boeing, which is already working on WiFi initiatives, and likely other operators such as Sprint Nextel and Cingular Wireless.